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High water conditions heighten electrical dangers

Electricity and water don't mix. That's what Otter Tail Power Company is stressing to its customers and neighbors who are dealing with high water conditions.

Electricity and water don't mix. That's what Otter Tail Power Company is stressing to its customers and neighbors who are dealing with high water conditions.

High water levels in many areas are reducing line clearances, and that increases the potential for accidental contact with electricity. Otter Tail Power Company's Safety Director Ryan Smith urges flood response personnel to be especially alert when their work in flooded areas might put them in contact with energized electrical equipment including overhead lines, transformers, and substations. He reminds area residents not to go near any flooded areas, including basements, if the water level has reached any part of the electrical system such as electrical outlets or the electrical connections on water heaters, water softeners, heating systems, etc.

Here are some other safety tips for all persons affected by high water conditions:

--Know exactly what you're doing when using power tools or other electrical appliances in damp areas.

--Before high waters arrive, stock a supply of bottled drinking water and food that requires little cooking and no refrigeration. Your emergency kit also should contain a manual can opener, battery-powered radio and flashlight, extra batteries, medicines, and baby and pet supplies. Charge your cell phone and keep the charger with you in case you need to leave your home.

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--Make sure your sump pump is operational and that the discharge hose isn't frozen or plugged. Pour some water into the sump to see if the pump starts. If it doesn't, check the electrical connections, consult your owner's manual, or call a plumber.

--It's a good idea to have a battery-operated power supply or portable generator to run the sump pump and other critical electrical appliances in case of a power interruption. But remember to disconnect these power supplies if you must evacuate.

--Don't connect a portable generator directly to your home's wiring and never plug it into a regular household outlet. Power only essential equipment because overloading your generator can damage appliances and electronics. Use proper power cords and make sure your generator is properly grounded. And be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's other instructions for safely operating a portable generator.

--Plug basement floor drains, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets in case your basement floods or the power goes out.

--If you must evacuate your home or business and don't know how to shut off your main breaker or fuse box, call your Otter Tail Power Company service representative or the company's 800-257-4044 customer service number for advice or assistance.

--Don't even consider going near a downed power line or near water that's in contact with any electrical component such as a pad-mount transformer or a downed power line.

--After flooding don't attempt to operate electrical appliances or equipment that have been submerged in floodwater.

"If your home has been without electrical service and floodwater has come in contact with your electrical wiring, Otter Tail Power Company requires an electrical inspector's wiring certificate before we can reenergize your home," says Smith. If any customer has questions about how flooding may affect your electrical service, call Otter Tail Power Company's customer service number 800-257-4044.

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Otter Tail Power Company, a division of Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ Global Select Market: OTTR), is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It provides electricity and energy services to more than a quarter million people in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. To learn more about Otter Tail Power Company visit www.otpco.com .

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